A group of campus and community activists on Library Mall questioned U.S. foreign policy Monday evening.
In response to Tuesday’s terrorist attacks, the rally, sponsored by a coalition of local organizations, called for Washington to be cautious in carrying out punishments against the terrorists.
“The two main messages of today’s gathering are that a military response will serve to kill more innocents and ensure the continuation of the cycle of violence,” event organizer Allen Ruff said.
Ruff, a writer and member of Jews for Equal Justice, urged people to turn to the history of U.S. policy in the Middle East before making judgements and calling for retaliation.
“The planes that flew into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon did not literally or figuratively come out of the blue and fall from the sky, but came out of history — a history that we all must be aware of and all must learn,” Ruff said. “It is a history of U.S. culpability ? the real denial of other people’s world, of other people’s culture.”
Attendees participated in sing-alongs and listened to the broad panel of speakers denounce war. The speakers, including WORT radio announcer Zoltan Grossman, ranged from clergy to self-proclaimed social activists.
Grossman echoed the concerns of Robert Fisk, a British correspondent who was the first western journalist to interview Osama bin Laden.
“When he [bin Laden] launched the attacks on New York and Washington, he fully expected and welcomes a massive retaliation, and that is his main agenda in these attacks,” he said. “By launching a massive retaliation that would kill thousands of innocent individuals, whether in Afghanistan or Iraq, it would fulfill Osama bin Laden’s goal of polarizing the region between Islam and the West.”
Another concern the rally addressed was the safety of Arab-Americans, Muslims and other people of color that have become the targets of harassment, discrimination and racial profiling. Since the United States’ arresting of primarily Islamic people, Islamic organizations have fought to prevent violent backlashes.
“Today in this difficult period we need restraint, not intimidation,” the rally’s emcee, Carol Lydle, said. “Arab-Americans, Muslims and other people of color have already experienced direct threats in Madison and in other U.S. cities. These events in the wake of this national tragedy are very dismaying.”
In response to these violent acts, the coalition of organizations sponsoring the rally have organized “Safe From Hatred.” The program will offer people physical protection if they feel threatened.
Event organizer Rae Vogeler said protection might include offering personal escorts for people.
“We need to be concerned for the people that are being discriminated against as a result of the backlash to the events of Sept. 11,” she said.
Local social activist Lila Pine said an increase in security measures may result in the repression of civil liberties. Like many other writers and activists, Pine said the government has to be careful not to give too much power to institutions who may invade citizens’ privacy rights.
“I know that there are times, no doubt, when a country is under attack, where some increased security measures are necessary and justified,” she said. “But I know how easy it is for governments to justify robbing us of our democracy, our privacy and our civil liberties in the name of national security.”